National Guns Dialogue in Washington, DC

The subject of guns in America lends itself to strong emotion and great strife, especially in the face of continued mass shootings. We all wish we could make it stop, but we can’t seem to agree on where to focus. The guns themselves? The troubled souls who carry out these acts of violence? The inconsistent regulation of existing laws? The poor infrastructure for recognizing this danger?

A Dialogue Beside the March for Our Lives

In March 2018, in the midst of another difficult national conversation about the role of guns in our communities, Essential Partners collaborated with Spaceship Media and Advance Local to bring people from across the country and across the spectrum of views together in Washington, DC. In the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, while the March for Our Lives passed by on the streets below, 21 strangers shared the personal stories behind their values and opinions.

Through a dialogue facilitated by Executive Director Parisa Parsa and Director of Program Development John Sarrouf, the participants asked one another genuine questions about their beliefs and met each another with openness and curiosity, despite their significant differences.

Transforming Facebook Debates

"Many of the people who came to the weekend expecting to be enemies left as friends," wrote Syracuse.com, a subsidiary of Advance Local. "The group learned to look beyond each others' viewpoints and at the life experiences that shape those views."

At the end of the two-day conversation, the core of 21 people formed a closed Facebook group with more than 130 members. They continued the dialogue online for the following month. Employing skills developed in Washington, DC, the core members cultivated a series of meaningful conversations about this highly emotional topic. Their experiment showed not only that better conversations about guns can be had in America, but that it's possible online as well.

 

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